Class of ’80, forty years to accomplish this year, and yet it seems little more than an adolescent. Bernardo Antoniazzi worked in the world of video games since 2007, when Activision the note for the quality of its “cinematic” (animation), and called on him to take care of Marvel Ultimate Alliance first, and then Wolverine, Spiderman, Prototype, Skylanders, Guitar Hero, and 007 Legends. This year, finally, dealt with the last Call of Duty.
Now he lives permanently in San Francisco and in the last five years, has “changed work”: while continuing to work at Activision, in fact, Bernard is now in charge of “capture systems”, devices that allow you to literally transform into a digital code, any physical object inanimate object, or any living being, while keeping the maximum likelihood and the same elasticity, or the properties of the materials of which it is composed, be it a dress, a weapon, a human face or a glass of whisky, in order to have realistic models to insert and use in the code of a video game.
It is a relatively new, where technology is blended with art, but that Bernard plays with a passion that is almost manic. We met and we asked him to tell me a little bit…
You will deal mainly with scans, that is, of an appearance very specialist. What is the most challenging of this job?
Bernardo Antoniazzi, 39, a specialist scanning systems digital laser for Infinity Ward, has worked at the last Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
You draw faces, the faces of the people. It may seem like a trivial thing, but make the model, the digital scanning of a face, done well, is a thing very complicated. We are not the case but we spend most of our lives looking at the faces of the people, and therefore our brain is an expert of the faces, which are, however, a surface is much more dynamic than we can perceive on a conscious level. For example, there are micro-movements that we don’t see on a rational level but, instead, at an unconscious level, our brain registers.
When we go to replicate a face in a digital model, if those micro-movements are not replicated, our brain takes notice and when we look at the face of a digital character, we understand that there is something wrong; we understand that it is not realistic, which is a bad copy, but not why. Therefore, re-create the faces is always the most difficult part. Also recreate the hair is extremely difficult; with skin and eyes we have made tremendous progress and are now photorealistic, instead of with the hair, according to me, it still is not there we are: every hair has many bends and if you think of an entire scalp, there are millions and millions of curves to handle in real-time. Of course, we are not able to manage them and have recourse to the expedients of more or less acceptable, but if you look at them well you see that they are fake; on that there is still much room for improvement.
This is your tenth Call of Duty, in what has evolved of the brand and, more in general, the panorama of the FPS in this period?
We are talking about a period of more than ten years, in the world of videogames, it is an eternity. I try to explain it with an anecdote: ten years ago I was in the office with Joel Emslie, who at the time was a simple “character artist” Modern Warfare 2 ” (and today has become the Art Director of Infinity Ward) and already at the time I did scans with the laser and I had made a scan of a pair of pants. I’d seen, hoping to be able to put in the game, but Joel, I had been discouraged because the technology at the time was inadequate, and that type of digital model with millions of polygons, it was completely unusable and it would have been time lost.
Then Joel went to Respwan to make Titanfall and then, a couple of years ago, is back. When we met again one is reminded of that incident and realized that, while visionary at the time, that was the good road to follow, that was the technique that we used a decade later to build models quickly and with a level of detail at the time unthinkable. Today, the time to produce these models is one-tenth compared to that spent ten years ago, and with a quality ten times higher. The time to make a simple pants to life a artist had to spend hours and hours drawing them directly to the PC, and the results are sometimes questionable.
Bernardo within the system of digital scanning laser he himself created. It is thanks to this machine that the characters and objects in Modern Warfare seem to be so realistic.
In Italy, however things have changed considerably in the last few years, the games still retain a patina of phenomenon culturally “cheap”. What is the perception, in your experience in california, of the american public? What is different compared to the community of Italian players?
In the United States, according to me, the impact of online video game, multiplayer, has been much stronger than in Europe in general and Italy in particular. Perhaps a technological development more rapid (the networks have developed earlier and faster in the USA) and an approach on the part of the young and more familiar with technology and computers, much more widespread that we, the online game has become a real social phenomenon, especially in the generation of the millennials.
In the bar in california, already years ago, it was not unusual to hear the boys speak of the members of the clan played online exactly in the same way that we do, when we were young, we talked about the small group of friends with whom I went to play on the pitch. And yet, in their case, they were people who, often, had never met in real life. This thing in Italy is more difficult to see, if not in the players more “hardcore”. This, I believe, has made all the difference.
You have worked in a Call of Duty based on an accurate historical reconstruction of some dramatic battles of the Second World War. Modern Warfare instead loses the historical side of the game. You do not have a particular historical constraints make developers more freedom to design the game the way they like it, making it better?
A graphic study of the character of Farah Karim. The uniforms and the clothes worn by the characters in Modern Warfare are not designed (as it was once), but the costumes are real, made to wear to the actors and then scanned by Bernardo to recreate a perfect replica of the digital.
Well, the Call of Duty (with few exceptions), it is disconnected from history, from reality, from a long time. In the strict sense is not a choice to Activision: we seek to offer the public what it wants, and the FPS is more among the trend of most interest to the young players. The environments, science-fiction, quite simply, they pull a lot more. Having said that, don’t do games that have a historical basis, does not remove any constraint: it is easier but still a total freedom. I give you an example: if I have to carry out a mission that takes place in Moscow (regardless of historical period) or the protagonists of the characters are Russian, I have to force myself to enter into the game of “figuring the digital” that have the features distinctly Russian, the typical features of the ethnic groups living in that area.
I assure you that to enter the characters with the typical look of an american citizen in a mission that takes place in Moscow, it would ruin the whole level, making it unlikely; while there games maybe we would if but on an unconscious level, you would understand that there is something wrong, even if you don’t know what is. We spend a lot of time to do this kind of research, and to digitize the people, the animals, the right objects and place them in the game, in the right place and in the right way.
A question a bit tricky, because Infinity Ward has stated that the DLC for Modern Warfare will be distributed free of charge, provoking a predictable wave of approval from the fans. What do you think of the DLC for a fee?
A photo of australian actress Claudia Doumit, who has interpreted, in Modern Warfare, the role of the rebel Farah Karim.
The answer is purely personal, related more to my experience of gaming, that of “insider”. Of course I agree with the choice of Infinity Ward, as well as other companies that have adopted the same policy as for example CD Projekt Red, and I understand that this will inspire the euphoria of the fans. On the other hand, however, it must be said that often behind a DLC there is so much work that is done when there is responsible for the development of the “core” game. Therefore, in the absolute sense I am not opposed to pay (as a player) and pay (as a developer) a DLC. Of course, depends on the content: if it is something that offers quantitatively little, it is right to offer it for free; new levels, new expansions, new plots, you do not have a dignity inferior to the title of “main” and it is more than understandable that the companies ask for a compensation, perhaps small, to be able to play.
The classic question: what is your answer to who bears the FPS part of the responsibility for violence is jumped to the honors of the chronicle, which sometimes happen in the USA? Or is it possible that a video game can indeed transmit messages to the ethical, without necessarily become pedantic or boring?
Frankly, I don’t know what to answer on a topic so controversial: I can only say that Activision there is a great deal of attention to the content and the fact that such content should not, in any way, to elicit emotions or reactions that are different from those for which such content have been made: that is, pure entertainment. This attention also declined, with the strict respect of the rating to the public the game is addressed to: the ESRB rating is a very important thing and a very serious one for us.
As regards the second part of your question, my position is a strictly “yes”. It is said that “should” have them (there are games that do not transmit messages that are ethical and remain great), but the ethical can stay safely in a video game without affossarne the level of fun. Of course I is easy to take the example of Modern Warfare: one of the things that from the very beginning, Jacob and Taylor (Jacob Minkoff and Taylor Kurosaki: respectively the Gameplay Director and Narrative Director at Infinity Ward, ed.) have had very clear was the desire to represent, in that game, the realism of the war in its every aspect, even that of the innocent victims. Thus transmitting uncensored the drama of war. If it is not a moral content, this…
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Claudia Doumit implemented digitally in Modern Warfare.
Prosecco in hand, when you’re in California, what do you miss of Vittorio Veneto and, more generally, of Italy?
I miss so much the family, as well, of course, been suppressed, prosecco and a bit’ all the delicacies of my parts. It must be said that now in California is a little easier, than before, to find Italian quality products: in Los Angeles, for example, I find it easily enough of the good radicchio trevigiano. It is very good but it costs a blunder.
To me, however, like to cook, am a good cook, grew up always attached to my grandmother from whom I took away many secrets, and I understand that do-the food is good if there are good ingredients is a lost bet at the start: a bit like the video game,…